There are some great answers in this thread already. I hope that adding my two cents’ worth is informative too.
I am a divorce and family lawyer. With rare exception (too rare to make pro bono something I do not find personally worthwhile). I find pro bono cases to be mostly of no personal or professional benefit to me at all, but pro bono was never intended to benefit lawyers but to be “for the public good”. That’s literally what pro bono means. The fully stated term is “pro bono publico” which is Latin for “for the public good.”
Lawyers are expected provide pro bono publico assistance as part of their professional obligations. Many provide none, others provide such services in the form of providing answers to legal questions (which is relatively easy), as opposed to providing free legal representation. Personally, I cannot afford to provide free legal representation without it making me miserable. Why?
Most (most, not all) pro bono divorce and family law clients are, in my experience, among the most self-entitled, complaining, bothersome, unrealistic, unreasonable clients. This is one reason why pro bono work is not work I enjoy.
Even the good pro bono clients’ cases often require significant amounts of attorney work, and the practice of law (especially divorce and family law) is not as lucrative many believe. It is impossible to predict how long a law suit will last and what it will require from the lawyer. Unlike providing a hungry person with a meal, pro bono legal services can extract more from a lawyer than he/she ever imagined or is able to give. This is why I have found it almost impossible to provide pro bono divorce and family law services. This is another reason why pro bono work is not work I enjoy.
In my experience, most decent people who are lawyers understand the noble reasons for pro bono publico assistance, but most don’t like pro bono work (for the reasons I have stated above) and prefer to avoid it or to find the most convenient ways to provide pro bono help. Myself included. I’m certainly not proud of this fact, but at the same time I’m not going to hang my head in shame. This attitude doesn’t make such lawyers bad people; giving away anything of value free is hard at least, and can be crippling for lawyers at worst.
That stated, it is easier than ever to handle legal matters without an attorney, and it is get getting easier every day (this is one of many reasons why the practice of law is less lucrative than it used to be and why it’s harder for lawyer to provide free services). The Internet has made knowledge that used to be known and used by the few who learned it in law school and made it available to everyone free of charge. Both the Internet and artificial intelligence are enabling scrappy entrepreneurs to develop inexpensive ways to enable non-lawyers to prepare legal documents of a quality that was unimaginable a generation or two ago.
One of the best ways to make pro bono help appealing to a lawyer is for those seeking pro bono help to educate themselves about the workings and the limitations of the legal system, to do as much the work they can do for themselves (see above), to seek help for truly serious matters where the client is being wronged (not trying to avoid responsibility for a legitimate speeding ticket, for example), to be understanding of the limits of an attorney’s ability to provide pro bono services, and to take a realistic view of the merits of one’s case, so that the lawyer is utilized if and as truly necessary and not treated as a slave to exploit and to whose labor the pro bono client is entitled, and to be appreciative of the volunteer lawyer’s efforts on the client’s behalf.
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